Is Cow's Milk Bad for You?
Oat milk, almond milk, pea milk, and other plant-based beverages are everywhere—which may make it seem like people are avoiding cow's milk all of a sudden. But there's no need to worry: dairy milk is still fine if you like it!
Cow's milk doesn't agree with everybody
Pretty much everyone produces a digestive enzyme called lactase when they are born. It's what helps human and other mammal babies to digest the milk sugar (lactose) in their mothers' milk.
As we get older, most of the world's population stops producing that enzyme. If you're "lactose intolerant," I'm talking about you. Some of us can drink milk just fine as an adult, but eventually develop lactose intolerance as we age or secondary to another digestive issue.
It's also possible to be allergic to milk, or to simply not enjoy drinking a ton of it. Bottom line, if you feel like milk doesn't agree with you, there's no need to drink it, and you may enjoy the plant-based alternatives. But if you drink milk and feel fine, keep on keepin' on.
Cow's milk has more calories and more protein than plant milks
Some people choose plant-based milks for nutritional reasons. They are all lower in calories per cup than whole milk, and lower in fat. Compare to skim milk, and the nutrition is more similar: skim milk has 85 calories per cup (compared to 45-115 for various plant milks) and almost no fat.
Cow's milk does have more protein than the plant-based milks, though. And some of the other milks have more sugar, although that depends on the recipe and whether the plant-based milk is sweetened. Regular skim milk does not have sugar added, although if you're looking at a chocolate or flavored milk—of any variety—check the label.
Cow's milk has saturated fat, while some plant milks do not, but it's still controversial as to whether that's a problem. Patients at risk for heart disease are often counseled to avoid saturated fat, but people who eat full-fat dairy aren't necessarily less healthy. (It's complicated.) Skim or reduced-fat milks are good choices if you're avoiding saturated fat, but so are plant-based milks.